Angel Spotlight Series: Behind the Scenes with Geoff Ralston

August 1, 2012

3:00 pm

As an entrepreneur pitching to angel investors, you have a lot on your mind. You have to nail your pitch and anticipate their questions, all while staying cool and charismatic. Preparing your pitch is of paramount importance, and a crucial component of this is knowing exactly who you’re pitching to.

We’re here to help.  

Tech Cocktail’s Angel Spotlight Series is a weekly feature of prominent angel investors around the country. We give you the lowdown on their investing strategy, top advice, and deal breakers, and hopefully reveal that, just like you and me, angels are people, too (with deeper pockets).

This week we talk with Geoff Ralston, the co-founder of Imagine K12, an education accelerator based out of Palo Alto, and a partner at Y Combinator.  As an entrepreneur, Ralston was part of the team behind Yahoo! Mail, where he eventually went onto become Chief Product Officer, and took the reigns as CEO at Lala prior to its exit to Apple for $80+ million.


Geoff Ralston

Investing philosophy

Geoff Ralston: At Imagine K12, we look for companies created by compelling entrepreneurs, who can demonstrably build products, have a passion for education, and are looking to create products that have the potential to positively change outcomes for children in K-12 education.

As a partner in Y Combinator, we look for similarly amazing founders and hackers who have the ability to articulate and create a vision of products that respond to real needs.

As an angel I have no over-riding philosophy, I simply invest when I believe in the entrepreneur and love the product/space.   If put on the spot, the overriding theme is that after several years of investing in many companies, I believe now more than ever the old saw that you are investing in the founders above all else.

Top advice to entrepreneurs

Ralston: Entrepreneurship is hard, so make sure you love what you are doing, be prepared to make lots of often hard decisions as quickly as you can, and never compromise on the people you hire.

Common advice that you disagree with

Ralston: Well, most advice is situational and makes sense in some situations.   But what I do tell entrepreneurs is that some of the most important decisions they will have to make are whether to take the advice they have received or not.   Not all words of wisdom will be right for them, and it is always their call.

Top mistake entrepreneurs make when pitching to you

Ralston: Agreeing too quickly or too completely with an objection to their business or their model or being too defensive when defending either.

Most cherished accomplishment

Ralston: My three children and I guess my fourth child is Yahoo! Mail (and there, too, I share the credit with others).

In your free time you can be found…

Ralston: On a tennis court, or a golf course, and with my family, when they’ll have me.


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When Zach Davis isn’t getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail’s Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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